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Diplomat's children put on watchlist so he cannot snatch them and flee overseas

Justice Faulks takes action to sort out a diplomat during a bitter family break-up.

Diplomat's children put on watchlist so he cannot snatch them and flee overseas

Date:April 15, 2015
Michael Inman Courts reporter for The Canberra Times

The children of a former Canberra-based diplomat will be placed on airport watchlists to stop him snatching them and fleeing the country.

A Canberra court has also made interim orders for the man to surrender the children's passports, and for their mother to have sole parental responsibility.

The Family Court has previously heard the envoy used his diplomatic immunity to fend off the authorities during a bitter family break-up.

He allegedly boasted he was untouchable by police after he threatened to kill his estranged wife and told the woman he planned to take their children with him when his posting to Australia ended.

In response - and after his ambassador refused to withdraw the father's legal immunity - the woman asked the Department
of Foreign Affairs to revoke his diplomatic privileges and have him declared persona non grata.

But the court on Wednesday heard the man had since left the country for his next posting, causing his diplomatic immunity to expire.

The mother's solicitor, Denis Farrar, said the diplomat had launched divorce proceedings in Europe and could contest the jurisdiction of the Australian court.

But Deputy Chief Justice John Faulks said the children's presence in Australia would be enough to find the court had jurisdiction to decide on custody.

The judge also signalled he could stop access visits unless the father engaged with the court and gave undertakings not to remove the children.

The family had been living in Canberra on diplomatic visas when the parents separated last year.

In the aftermath, the mother alleges he assaulted her, threatened to kill her and her new partner, broke into her home, took her car, and hacked her email and phone.

In one email to the woman, he allegedly wrote: "The police do not exist for me because I am a diplomat."

Earlier this year, the diplomat allegedly broke into her home and chased her down the street after becoming upset after she told him that she and the children wanted to stay in Australia and would not relocate overseas for his next posting.

She contacted the police, who spoke to the man, but could do nothing because of his diplomatic immunity.

The mother went into hiding with the children when the authorities confirmed they not stop him if he were to take the children and leave the country.

She and the children have since been granted bridging visas pending an the outcome of an application for a partner visa.

Mr Farrar asked the court to grant interim orders restraining the father from from relocating the children, to surrender their passports to the court, and grant the mother sole parental responsibility.

In arguing for the order, the family law solicitor said nothing had been put in place to stop the father returning to Australia to take the children and asked the court to put in place safeguards and show "abundant caution".

Deputy Chief Justice Faulks granted the interim orders, and directed the man's lawyers to file an application to oppose within four weeks.

Mr Farrar, after the decision, said the children would now be placed on airport watchlists.

The matter will reappear before the court next month.
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